The Traumatic Weapon Property for Starfinder/ShadowFinder

Sometimes, you have to decide if an idea is worth the mental load adding it causes the game to gain.

Stamina Points and Hit Points are wildly unrealistic simulations of how creatures and objects take damage. After all, people who are stabbed once sometimes die, people who are stabbed 30+ times sometimes survive. Similar numbers are true for gunshot wounds, and often the people involved are sufficiently typical there’s no reason to suspect they are secretly 11th level heroes with a vast pool of damage points… or that the people who kill with a single attack are pulling off massively high-level trick attacks.

But SP and HP aren’t efforts to model reality. They are gameist rules designed to make it easy to know if a character is being hurt, near death, or dead. Often the situations they create are pretty clearly at odds with typical reality, even if possibly within the realm of things that have happened a few times in medical history. But the rules do a good job of indicated levels or harm, allowing resource management to help track available healing and rest times, and allowing players a metric by which they can gauge the threat posed by a wide range of threats.

Normally, you look at changing rules to make them easier, faster, more realistic, or more “fun,” (which can, admittedly, encapsulate a lot of potential elements). While it would be pointless to try to make weapon damage more “realistic” in a system using SP/HP, due to the inherent gameist nature of that system, there is, however, another potential reason to have firearms work differently than melee weapons in Starfinder (or a compatible modern version, perhaps ShadowFinder) – genre emulation. While lots of supernatural monster hunters in genre fiction have shotguns and pistols, others with access to such materials restrict themselves to knives, axes, and wooden stakes, and go so far as to claim firearms never help.

And there IS a difference between the way a bullet damages a soft target and the way it damages a hard one. The vast speeds of bullets means they often deform and warp soft tissues in a much larger area than the wound track, whereas a stiletto punching the same size whole in someone lacks that additional damage mechanic.

So, maybe we want bullets (and maybe some other weapons) to work differently than other damage-dealers… sometimes. Kinda.

So, what if we create a new weapon property, called “traumatic”?

Traumatic: A traumatic weapon is one that does a significant amount of soft-tissue and propagating damage, such as a gunshot’s effects through hydrostatic shock. When used to damage a target that has no hardness and no DR, traumatic weapons deal additional damage equal to the listed amount (such as “traumatic +1d6”).

Kinda like Boost and some other traits, traumatic gives you more damage, but only in specific circumstances. I’d have to do a lot of math and comparisons to know exactly how much extra damage traumatic can add at any given level… and I’m not sure it’s worth it

Sometimes you have to craft a rule before you know if you like it. I’m really on the fence with this one. So I can try to adjust it until I like it, ir discard it and start over… or just decide it’s a bad idea.

But even fi I do that, I’m saving it in my archived files. Sometimes a bad idea for one game or function turns out to be just what you need for another project.

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About okcstephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the publisher and lead genius of Rogue Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps.

Posted on September 20, 2021, in Game Design, Starfinder Development and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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